Veteran of the Navy and Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Truman VA

Veteran of the Navy and Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Truman VA

Dr. Thomas Purinton Dresser is the chief of nuclear medicine at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital in Missouri. He provides a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as a general nuclear medicine physician. 

In his 31 papers, he mostly talks about nuclear medicine, which uses radioactive drugs & pharmaceuticals for research, diagnosis, and treatment. In 1974, he earned his medical degree and a doctorate in physiology from the University of Missouri. 

Captain in the Navy Medical Corps from 1971 to 1992. He received the National Defense, Humanitarian Service, Navy Commendation, and Meritorious Service medals.

What led you to join the military?

I was inclined to join the military because my grandfather, Thomas Purinton, enlisted at age 16 in 1899 to serve on the square-rigger USS Essex, and my Massachusetts ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. 

In 1971, one of my classmates was accepted into the Department of Defense's Medical Osteopathic Scholarship Program. Meanwhile, I finished medical school and became a Navy ensign on active duty.

What inspired you to pursue a research career?

I've always seen the world analytically and quantitatively. After developing my academic skills, I could apply my interests in a meaningful way. I saw academic medicine as an encouraging environment in the military and VA. 

The surgeon general of the Navy was Dr. Donald Custis when I applied for a Navy scholarship in the 1970s. Later he became the VA's chief medical director, and I recall that very vividly because I applied and was not accepted. Then I wrote him a personal letter, stating, "I am interested in joining the Navy and becoming a Navy doctor, and I was accepted two weeks later.

How long have you served? Can you describe your military experience?

Between 1974 and 1992, I worked at a Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. I have been a staff physician, department head, and service line chief since I completed my internal medicine and nuclear medicine training. 

In 1985, I became the head of research. In 1986, I served aboard the USS New Orleans, an amphibious assault ship, as a surgeon for an amphibious squadron. I have found it very useful to understand and use the military's operational structure in my professional career.

How might your research benefit veterans? What kinds of research do you conduct?

I established a Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship training program based on myocardial perfusion imaging. Analyzing 50,000 patient studies has resulted in many publications. 

As my colleague Timothy Hoffman and I are doing a Phase III clinical trial of Ga68-PSMA-11, a radiopharmaceutical that makes it easier to spot cancers, we evaluate patients with prostate cancer. This radiopharmaceutical appears to be the best for assessing the stage of prostate cancer and if it has metastasized.